As your Library looks forward to reopening on Monday, April 19, we’ve been reflecting on what this past year of being closed has meant for us.
Every person has had a different experience and perspective this year, so we wanted to capture individual reflections on working at the Library during this unprecedented moment in time. We’ve had conversations with people in every Library department and will be sharing them with you throughout the next few weeks.
Below you’ll find our conversation with Kip, who works in Youth Services.
What was your job before we closed, and how has it changed in the last year?
Before we closed my job was entirely patron-oriented: helping find books, answering phones, making decorations for the department, creating book lists. I had also started doing some school outreach stuff. Every part of my job was focused on interacting with kids and their caregivers.
When we closed and had to move to digital programming, my whole job became making videos for Youth Services, like online storytimes and other programs. So I went from being a book jockey to Taika Waititi! Just kidding, but I do actually really love doing video. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had this year that I wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise. Honestly, making movies was always a pipe dream for me—getting to write, edit, or act, and that’s my whole job right now. I had taken some video classes in high school, like 15 years ago. But I really had no idea what I was getting into. It was just, “Yeah, I can totally do that”, and then a week later wondering why I had agreed to something I’d never done! But during this last year I’ve gotten to do all of it—the editing side, as well as acting and directing. Even though the process from start to finish is tedious and time-consuming, I ended up falling in love with it. It’s actually been very fulfilling for me.
How has the Library being closed affected your view of the role libraries play in society?
This is something we’ve talked about a lot. What is our purpose, how do we fit into our community? We’re really in the public service industry, so we’re here to serve people. But right now people can’t be here in the building, so the question became “how do we reach them out there?”. Which in Youth Services usually equates to “how can we make ourselves look absolutely ridiculous and put it out into the world?”!
I don’t think this time has redefined us [the Library] necessarily, but I think it has showcased how valuable libraries are. You know, people come to us when they’re not sure what to do and need answers. People depend on libraries without even realizing it sometimes. I think a lot of patrons have realized that during this time, especially families. Because it’s a safe, fun, free space for kids. And really for everyone—this is truly a safe, free space for anyone who needs it. So I think being closed has been hard for us, because we couldn’t be that safe space for people this last year.
What are some words you would use to describe the last year working at the Library?
Testing! Every day seems like a test to see how we can handle things, how we flow with changes. It’s been very challenging. I would also say affirming. It’s affirming to know that we are an important part of our community and that since we’ve been closed, we’ve been missed. Another big word for this year is support. We [the Library staff] really support each other. I can’t imagine going through this year, even on my worst day here, at any other place I’ve worked. And gentle. We’ve had to be gentle with each other – everyone is just trying to do the best they can in a crazy, crazy year.
To discover what your Library is offering while it’s closed to the public, click here or call (423) 434-4450. Follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for daily updates and virtual programs.